Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

The Biggest Tax Cheats

How can we possibly reduce the federal deficit and find enough money for high-quality public services without raising everyone's taxes? Actually, there's a remarkably easy solution. The government just needs to get serious about collecting money from tax cheats. And this doesn't mean audits of ordinary taxpayers or mom-and-pop businesses -- that's not where the big cheating is. Much of it is in the form of very complex tax shelters, deliberately designed to make the tax evasion techniques so complicated that auditors have trouble figuring out what's legal and what isn't. Much of the rest happens overseas, where affiliates of U.S. corporations arrange to book their profits in tax havens with which the United States has no enforcement treaty. The Internal Revenue Service recently released a report estimating that taxes owed but not collected in 2001 (the last year studied) ranged from $312 billion to $353 billion. That didn't even count much of the tax evasion by U.S. firms offshore...

The Stealth Tax Spreads

Happy tax time, everyone. Don't you wish rates were lower and filling out your returns were less of a hassle? Well, President Bush may have another gift for you. His next big goal, which he has entrusted to a presidential commission, is ''tax simplification." So: Is George W. Bush the taxpayer's friend? Bush's new commission is mainly exploring ways to increase tax incentives for savings and to reduce taxes on investment income. That sounds good, but most of us consume most of our income. Like Bush's other tax breaks, these benefits would go mainly to the upper brackets. There is, however, one big form of tax relief that middle-income families really need and aren't getting. I refer to relief from a little monster called the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT is giving more and more of us stealth tax hikes. This is about serious money, possibly yours. The AMT was enacted in 1970 to prevent very wealthy taxpayers from pyramiding tax deductions and literally paying no tax at all. The idea...

Exposing Pro-Life Zealotry

Some good may yet come of Terri Schiavo's sad story. More of us will think hard about how we'd want to be treated if terminally incapacitated. More of us will write living wills, making clear who is in charge. And more people will gain a truer understanding of the religious right. The Republican Party may also hesitate, out of its own life-support instincts, before rushing so recklessly to embrace extreme zealotry. And the Democrats, often cowed by America's latest apparent romance with fundamentalism, may wake from their own persistent vegetative state. Much to the shock of Republican operatives and opportunists, polls show that most Americans deeply resent the plain meddling reflected in the right-wing dash back to Washington to write a one-woman law to keep Terri Schiavo on a feeding tube. Bill Frist, the doctor-senator, looked like a perfect idiot when he purported to diagnose her condition via videotape. Even Jeb Bush is backing off. Most Democrats initially flinched, recoiling...

Hawks Taking Wing

President Bush has nominated two of his most belligerent and dogmatic hawks to key positions abroad -- Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank, and John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador. For America's allies who value the UN and who opposed Bush's Iraq strategy, of which Wolfowitz was a principal architect, these choices are an astonishing slap. And for Democrats who heard Bush promise to govern as "a uniter, not a divider," this is one more challenge. Bolton, under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, has long ridiculed the UN, international law, and multilateralism. In 1998, speaking of the risk of losing a vote in the UN, Bolton declared that "This will simply provide further evidence [as] to why nothing more should be paid to the UN system." In terms of who's up and who's down, there are different readings of these nominations. One reading is that two senior neoconservatives are being hustled out of town. But while good losers in Washington power...

Asleep at the Wheel

The Republicans just did it again. They pushed through Congress a bankruptcy ''reform" bill written by credit card companies. The bill makes it harder for ordinary people crushed by debt (often medical debt) to start anew. It leaves intact dodges used by wealthy people, such as asset-hiding trusts, and the corporate ability to use bankruptcy to slash wages, evade pension responsibilities, and stiff creditors. There's a larger story here. Time after time, Bush administration policies do real economic harm to ordinary people, yet the Democrats can't seem to turn that reality into winning politics. Why not? Other recent examples include: Stealth Tax Increases. While the Bush administration has bestowed immense tax cuts on the richest 1 percent, the upper-middle class is getting socked by the alternative minimum tax. This provision was enacted to make sure that wealthy people did not avoid taxation entirely by piling up multiple deductions. But thanks to inflation, the tax now denies such...

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